by Thomas Wailgum Smells Blood, Hunts Bigger CRM Prey: Enterprise Cloud Customers

Mar 09, 20093 mins
Enterprise Applications

In late February 2009, CEO Marc Benioff proclaimed that the software-as-a-service CRM maker was “proud to be the first billion-dollar cloud computing company.”

Benioff was delivering fiscal year 2009 results to the investor and analyst community, and he was perfectly pleased with’s balance sheet: For FY 2009, the company reported revenues of $1.077 billion, which was an increase of 44 percent from the previous fiscal year.

Ever the showman, Benioff didn’t miss an opportunity to take shots at his enterprise software competition (Oracle, SAP, Microsoft and the like): “At a time when capital is precious,” Benioff noted, “big-ticket software purchases just don’t make sense.”

As is the case with Benioff (and his former boss, Larry Ellison), the marketing bravado on company conference calls is a well-choreographed piece of theatrics, this time revealing a new branding strategy. Benioff and his company are attempting to move away from being known simply as a SaaS CRM vendor for small and midsize companies. Instead, executives and marketing collateral now refer to as “the enterprise cloud-computing company.”

And the newfound ability to add a “billion” and a dollar sign in front of the slogan doesn’t hurt its cause either, as Salesforce tries snare more share of the large-company market and prove it’s ready for the big time. Brand perception means as much as clean code these days.

Of course, some of us might take issue with the semi-annoying pervasiveness of the opaque term cloud computing.

AMR Research’s Chris Fletcher notes in his overview of’s recent results that he does take “some issue with Mr. Benioff’s repositioning of as an ‘enterprise cloud computing company,'” Fletcher notes. “But in fairness, definitions of cloud computing are nebulous enough that several companies could waft their ways into this category.”

Nevertheless, as Fletcher adds, it’s difficult to find fault with Salesforce’s financial results. “Mr. Benioff’s team has clearly executed well,” he adds, “with the SaaS model that a few years ago was viewed with suspicion now well established in the industry, which is at least in part because of’s success.”

With the global economy in ruins, SaaS providers such as are like a school of hungry sharks, eyeing the incumbent CRM, ERP, BI and supply chain vendors who’ve been wounded by persistent user complaints about high cost, enterprise application inflexibility and vendor lock-in fears, and are treading water as they chart their own uncertain direction.

There’s blood in water. And Benioff is circling.